EDMONTON, Alberta, February 22, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Homeschooling groups are sounding the alarm this week as the Alberta government prepares to pass a bill that they say threatens to mandate “diversity” education in the home.
The province’s new Education Act, re-tabled Feb. 14th by Alison Redford’s majority Progressive Conservative government to replace the existing Schools Act, stipulates in section 16 that all instructional materials in schools “must reflect the diverse nature and heritage of society in Alberta, promote understanding and respect for others and honour and respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act.”
But, in addition to publicly-funded school boards, the proposed Act defines “school” to include private schools and “a parent providing a home education program.”
Paul Faris of Canada’s Home School Legal Defence Association (HSLDA) says the law subjects homeschoolers’ entire families life to the Human Rights Act, the provincial version of “human rights” legislation that has been used to target Christians and conservatives across the country, particularly those espousing traditional views on homosexuality.
“Basically what it would mean is all learning that goes on in the home, all material that goes on in the home, would essentially be subject to the Alberta Human Rights Act,” Faris explained.
“At least when the child leaves the school and goes home it no longer applies, but for a homeschooling family they never get away from this,” he added.
Faris said Alberta already has some of the toughest regulations for homeschooling among the Canadian provinces. Parents have to register with a school board and submit a plan at the beginning of the year, followed by two visits from a certified teacher that normally occur in the home. He did note, however, that difficulties are somewhat mitigated by the fact that parents have some choice about which school board in which they register.
Kenneth Noster, father of six and director of Wisdom Home Schooling, said the Education Act would grant the government “quite a long reach of the arm into the home.”
Section 16 of the Act, he says, “essentially means that in order to run a school in the province you must be politically correct or you could risk being shut down.”
But, he said, “everything that they can impose on a school, they can impose on the home.” For homeschoolers, “getting up and doing morning chores and doing morning prayer and stuff is all part of your structured learning,” he noted. “So essentially, you could say, for all of that there has to be politically correct material.”
“At the same time, [the government] could insist that non-politically correct material such as Scripture and the [Catechism of the Catholic Church] could be deemed as offensive and not useable,” he added.
Under Alberta’s Human Rights Act, Red Deer pastor Stephen Boissoin was found guilty of ‘hate’ in 2008 after writing a letter to a local paper criticizing the homosexual agenda. He was forced to pay a fine, and ordered to personally apologize to the complainant and never again express his views on homosexuality publicly.
The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench overturned that ruling in 2009 saying the tribunal overstepped its constitutional bounds and took significant procedural liberties that would have never been permitted in a real court.
In 2005, Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary was taken before the tribunal after mentioning Catholic teaching on homosexuality in a pastoral letter to the Catholic faithful.
The Alberta Home Education Association (AHEA) says the Education Act as written “provides opportunities to impose curriculum and practises upon all schools in Alberta, whereby special interest groups will have leverage to actively promote alternate lifestyles.”
“Individuals or groups with special interest agendas could take action against home educating families by utilizing [section 16] of the Act,” they add.
Despite the criticism, Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk has so far defended the inclusion of homeschoolers in the definition of ‘school’.
In a letter to AHEA, he wrote that “Home Education is included in the definition of ‘school’ because this definition addresses both the principle of a structured learning environment with expected educational outcomes and the principle of parent’ right and responsibility to make education choices for their children.”
Faris acknowledged that it is impossible to predict how the government will apply the law, and mentioned that government officials have suggested to them that they will not enforce it on homeschoolers.
“But living in a free country means that we don’t have to fear what someone will do with a new law. … What’s written is how it should be applied,” said Faris.
“If they’re not going to enforce it, why are they writing the law that way?” he asked.
The Progressive Conservatives have 67 of the 83 seats in the province’s legislature, so the bill’s passage is essentially assured. But Faris noted that the province is set for an election so the government may be open to changing its mind on the homeschooling aspect to avoid controversy.
The Home School Legal Defence Association is calling on Alberta citizens to contact the Education Minister and their elected representatives.
LifeSiteNews.com did not hear back from Alberta’s Ministry of Education by press time.
Hon. Thomas Lukaszuk, Education Minister
423 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue NW
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-5010
Fax: (780) 427-5018
Premier Alison Redford
Office of the Premier
Room 307, Legislature Building
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2B7
E-mail: Use this form.
Contact info for Alberta MLAs.